Three Jewish summer camps near Malibu, California – Ginding Hilltop, Camp Shalom, and Camp Hess Kramer – were destroyed last month in the California wildfires and Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa (CBB) is doing what it can to help.
On November 15, the CBB executive committee decided to donate $5,000 from its surplus funds to help rebuild the three camps.
“Like other organizations, we really do watch every penny closely, and so we were a little worried about how the optics would be perceived,” said CBB Board Chair Adam Tanner.
“But at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Anything we can do is meaningful.”
He hopes other organizations follow suit, and that the CBB donation sets a precedent for others. “From our perspective, we want Jewish kids to go to camp,” said Tanner, who attended CBB from 1979 to 1995. “There are longer term ramifications here and some children will lose that opportunity for Jewish camping.”
Tanner stressed that the money for the donation is being drawn from CBB’s surplus funds.
“We’ve been extremely fortunate over the past few years to be able to put some money in the bank, and this will come out of operations not from donor donations.”
“I have no recollection of doing anything like this before,” said past-board chair Michael Polowin, although board members did organize a fundraising drive for the nearby Tim Hortons Camp des Voyageurs in Quyon.
Polowin, who is currently vice-chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa explained that he learned of the camps’ emergency appeal from Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman.
“I had a conversation with Adam and the camp board executive. We discussed how unique this was, and how close to home it comes… The primary mission of the camp is to provide camping to Jewish kids without regard to financial ability. When we saw three Jewish summer camps burn to the ground, and a desire to get them up and running for 2019, that is a tall order,” said Polowin.
“It’s not a huge help, but it’s something,” he added. “If we can get other people and organizations to come on board, maybe those children will be able to come to camp. These are camps that are like ours. Communities need these camps.”